I just checked into my flight at Newark. As I was getting my bags out of the car, I heard a cop yell, “Pull over!”
As I was organizing my unorganized bag, my thoughts became unorganized as I eavesdropped on the conversation between the officer and the kid.
(How did they come up with the word Eaves dropped? Just looked up Eaves…the part of a roof that meets or overhangs the walls of a building…Okay. That makes sense.)
Of course the first thing I thought was – terrorist threat of some sort? Was this a suspicious vehicle? Why the urgency?
And if it was some sort of questionable situation, I understand the urgency.
The conversation went something like this:
“You call your friend right now and tell him to come back!” The cop says in a stern manner.
The kid dials – and hangs up.
Cop says, “You didn’t let it ring. I heard it.”
The kid tries again…cop meanwhile saying, “Don’t you speak English?”
The kid looked perhaps from some part of Africa. His skin was a very deep brown. I looked at what he was wearing, his bag…he had 1 back pack. He was dressed nicely, and didn’t appear to be flying – or maybe he was traveling light.
I’m still putting my bags together…while the kid has no luck getting his friend on the phone.
Then the cop says, “If you don’t get your friend over here, I’m going to arrest you – stop fucking around.” and proceeded to take the kid by the arm and bring him from the curb to the wall of the terminal. I’m still watching. I’m puzzled as to what was going on…is this all warranted?
I’m actually starting to get very agitated. My driver, (and we are taking our sweet time with no hassles) says, come on, Linda, don’t get involved. You don’t want to end up arrested.
I said, just go. I have plenty of time before my flight. My driver took off without burning rubber.
Meanwhile, there is a baggage guy, who is also very dark-skinned, observing this whole thing. I looked into his eyes and wondered if he was thinking the same thing I was…
If that guy wasn’t black, the cop would not be treating him this way.
I walked over to the baggage guy and asked him if he had seen what had happened, prior to the car taking off. He saw the same thing that I had. And he informed me that the kid worked at the airport. (That rules out traveler.)
Then I asked him for a pen. I wrote down my name and number, put my little iphone on record, walked over to the cop and the kid, (I know. I know. The Boston bomber was a kid….teenagers are capable of doing some horrible stuff), but I just wanted to know the story.
As I approached, I said, “Hi. No disrespect officer, but I just want to give my number if you need a witness.” And I handed the paper to the young man. Then I continued, “I don’t know what’s going on – I don’t understand what’s going on.”
Cop says, “If you saw the situation, you’d understand?”
I said, “I saw the guy take off. I saw him hightail it…why did you ask him to stop?”
Cop says, “I pulled a car stop on him.”
Me – “Why? Did he look suspicious or something?
Cop – “He had many violations against the vehicle”
I said, “Oh. Gotcha”. Then I stopped the camera.
Then naturally, I continued, still puzzled…”Well, what does that have to do with the kid? Why would you threaten to arrest him?”
Cop says, “He’s not in trouble. He’s helping me out. Everything is okay.”
I looked straight into the eyes of the kid, and said, you call me if you need a witness.”
I then informed the baggage guy, as he was worried for the safety of the kid.
(I’m typing profusely in the lounge…must. share. story!)
My stomach was in knots. I was upset…even slightly teary eyed. I wondered what might have happened to the kid if I didn’t come over to check, as it seemed to be a bit heated.
And yes, I could not help but wonder if this would have happened if he was a white kid. And I wondered how much other injustice goes on. I’m not saying that is what happened here, but it just didn’t sit right with me, and there was no way I was going to mind my own business. (So what’s new?)
But more importantly, why didn’t Oprah have one of those hidden cameras, and I could have won a new car!?
Seriously, I’m glad I did it. I did want to know if it was some terrorist threat on Friday the 13th. I did want to know if the behavior of the officer was justified. Maybe the other guy is a bad guy in the vehicle that took off…but he has the plates of the car, otherwise he wouldn’t have known there were violations…so why hold and harass the kid? (And make him late for work – speaking of which, I had better get my ass on the plane now!)
I know being an officer is a tough job, but so is being a black kid.